Preservation: How and What?

The doctrine of preservation of the Scriptures has been hotly debated in recent years. Much has been written and said, but most of the rhetoric on the subject has been closely connected to defending or rejecting one view or another on the translation issue. The result has often been that important foundational questions have been overlooked in a rush to get to conclusion A or B in the translation debate.

Among the neglected questions are these: (1) what process did God say He would use to preserve His word and (2) what form did He say that preserved word would take? Both of these are subsets of another neglected question: What does Scripture actually claim (and not claim) about it’s own preservation?

The questions of process (“how”) and form (“what”) are at the heart of the controversy because nobody (among fundamentalists or conservative evangelicals) denies that the word has, and will, endure. The question of what Scripture actually claims is critical as well, for multiple reasons. For one, only a clear answer to that question can put us on the right track to answering the others.

Two general schools of thought exist regarding the how and what of preservation.

Discrete preservation

One set of views on the how and what of preservation holds that the word must be preserved in a form that is accessible and identifiable with certainty as the preserved form. In other words, preservation means there is an original language text one can identify as “the preserved text.” In most cases, discrete preservationists believe this must also extend to a translation—one existing (or future) translation in each language, which we can identify as “the preserved translation.”

A missionary I spoke with on the subject a few years ago offered the following observations:

I believe since we do not have a copy of the originals, and Scripture mentions God would preserve His word, we have to have His word in a translation. I believe the only translation that was preserved in the English language is the translation coming from the Textus Receptus; the King James Bible.

A more detailed and incisive variation of the view is expressed in this Bible college doctrinal statement:1

We believe … that the King James Bible is God’s preserved word in English. We reject any attempt to correct it with the Greek critical text as is done in the Revised Standard Version, New International Version, and the New King James Version.

We believe … that God’s Word was spread around the world by the Reformation Era Bibles and Bible translations made from them during the beginning of the modern missions movement (1700’s and early 1800’s). Tragically, for nearly two hundred years, the United Bible Society … has tried to replace these Received Text Bibles with corrupt translations.

… the Word of God in Spanish is to be found in the Reformation era 1602 Valera Bible and properly done revisions …

Book length cases for word perfect preservation in discrete form are now available as well (for example, Thou Shalt Keep Them: A Biblical Theology of the Perfect Preservation of Scripture edited by Kent Brandenburg, 2003) in addition to numerous articles and blog posts on the Web.2

Dispersed preservation

Another approach to the how and what of preservation emphasizes the challenge we face in looking for answers to preservation questions. For example, the writers of Bible Preservation and the Providence of God offer the following caution:

What is less clear is how God is preserving the Bible. Though the Bible describes a little of the process of inspiration, it does not describe in detail the process of preservation. Since God also chose in His providence not to preserve the autographs [originals], it takes more effort to understand the process. (Schnaiter and Tagliapietra, 33)

In the chapters that follow, Schnaiter and Tagliapietra detail their view of the process and form of preservation. In an appendix, Schnaiter summarizes as follows:

I believe that the presence of copyists’ errors or translator’s errors or publishers’ errors in every copy of the New Testament … justifies the conclusion that God has not preserved the precise wording of the text … in any particular manuscript or copy or translation, but that He has indeed preserved both wording and sense. The sense is preserved in every copy since each is generally unaffected by the wording variations. (Schnaiter and Tagliapietra, 285. Emphasis original.)3

James White describes a similarly complex process and form of preservation:

You see, if readings could just “disappear” without a trace, we would have to face the fact that the original reading may have “fallen through the cracks” as well. But the tenacity of the New Testament text, while forcing us to deal with textual variants, also provides us with the assurance that our work is not in vain. One of those variant readings is indeed the original. (White, 48)

To these writers, and many others, preservation is not something God does by maintaining a singular certainly-identifiable form, but rather, something He has done (and is doing) in a dispersed way in the manuscripts He has kept from extinction.

The Bible on preservation

To most of us the burning question is, “What does the Bible itself say about its preservation?” In particular, what does the Bible reveal about God’s preservation process and what does it reveal about the form in which His preserved word will reach His people?

Seven passages speak most directly and clearly about the enduring nature of God’s word. Those who believe God has preserved His word in each language in one translation based on the proper Greek text often cite one or more of these in support of their view. For summary purposes I list them here with brief excerpts (in the KJV).

  • Psalm 119:89 “forever … thy word is settled in heaven”
  • Psalm 119:152 “thy testimonies … thou hast founded them forever”
  • 1 Peter 1:24-25 “the word of the Lord endureth for ever”
  • Psalm 12:6-7 “thou shalt preserve them from this generation forever”
  • Psalm 119:160 “every one of thy righteous judgments endureth for ever”
  • Matthew 24:35 “my words shall not pass away”
  • Matthew 5:18 “one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass”

Analysis

In Psalm 119:89 we have probably the least helpful passage of the seven for discerning the how and what of preservation on earth. The Psalmist’s goal is to magnify the Lord by pointing out that His word is natsav, firmly fixed and unchanging, just as God Himself is. But the location is “in heaven.” Similarly, Psalm 119:152 reveals that God’s word is “founded” (yacad) forever. The idea again is a firm (and by implication, unmoving) placing. But we do not gain any information as to what we should expect to be able to hold in our hands and read.

Psalm 12:6-7 are a special case because what is meant by “them” in “preserve them” has often been debated. However, if we grant for the sake of argument that “them” refers to God’s “words” (in v.6), what we have again, is a promise that the words of God will not be destroyed by any evil generation (“from this generation” refers to the idle speakers, flatterers and oppressors described in 12:1-5). We do not have a promise here that the words will be accessible or identifiable with certainty.

In 1 Peter 1:24-25 and Psalm 119:160, however, we gain—by inference—a little information about God’s preservation of His word for readers. Peter describes the contrast between the short and frail lives of mortals and the eternally enduring word of God, quoting from Isaiah 40:8. The psalmist indicates that what will endure is comprehensive: not one of God’s judgments will be lost. But it’s the context of these two passages that is most helpful. In both texts, part of the point seems to be that God’s word endures for us. It endures in some form believers will be able to access from generation to generation.

With Matthew 24:35, we gain still more information. Here Jesus affirms that His own words will never pass away. And, though we have no details concerning the form or process of their preservation, we do have a hint regarding the location of their preservation. “Pass away” translates the Greek parerchomai, meaning a passing by or passing from. Jesus’ implication is that His words will continue to exist in the world where His followers live.

Jots and tittles

Matthew 5:18 might be the most important passage on the subject. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus assures His listeners that “one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass until … ” The statement actually includes two conditions, two “untils”: until heaven and earth pass away and until all (the law) is fulfilled. Here again, we learn more about what God will preserve: every iota and keraia, every smallest letter and smallest stroke. The verb parerchomai (pass from) occurs again indicating that the words will be preserved here below.

What has been promised

Discrete preservationists see in these passages a promise that every “jot and tittle” of Scripture will be available to every generation in a certainly-recognizable, written form. That is, believers of every age will be able to point to a copy and say with certainty, “Every jot and tittle is right here.” But there are several reasons to believe this is not what has been promised:

  1. The passages do not actually say there will be a recognized form with every jot and tittle perfectly preserved.
  2. Neither Jesus nor the other speakers or writers in these passages say that the word will be accessible for “every generation.” Even if a letter-perfect form of God’s word could be identified with certainty, the promises do not preclude the possibility that this form could be lost for some generations then recovered again (the fact that something has not passed away does not mean we must know exactly where it is.)
  3. None of those who heard these promises when they were given could point to a written form they knew to contain every preserved jot and tittle. That is, already multiple copies existed, and variations among them existed—not only in jots and tittles but (by Jesus’ day) in whole words. (When Jesus spoke, the Scriptures available were hand made copies of the Hebrew OT and Greek versions of the OT known collectively as the Septuagint).

Conclusions

A close examination of what Scripture claims about its own preservation reveals that God’s word is preserved forever independently of anyone’s access to it (“in heaven”). This examination also reveals, however, that every word—even every letter—will always be preserved, and at least potentially accessible, on the earth. Scripture does not claim, however, that its availability in word-perfect form will be without interruption or that God’s people will always be able to identify it with certainty. There is nothing close to a promise that a word-perfect translation of such a text will exist in English or any other language. (If we have no promise that the Scriptures will be translated at all we cannot possibly have any promises about the quality of translations.)

Some will object that if we cannot identify the perfectly preserved text or translation, we do not have preservation in any meaningful sense. But this argument is a distraction from facts we cannot escape. Whether or not we like the implications of what Scripture says (and doesn’t say), the Bible still says only what it says—no more and no less.

Case-making

One additional distinction is important here. The fact that we have not been promised a certainly-identifiable, perfect text or translation does not prove that we are without one. What that fact does do, however, is point the way to what kind of case must be made for a perfectly preserved text or translation. Such a case must consist of inferences from Scripture, historical data, other external evidence, and reasoning from these. In short, just as the case for preservation “somewhere in the manuscripts” derives from the silence of Scripture plus external data, the case for perfect preservation must also be made by appealing to external data. Divine authority cannot be properly claimed for either position.

Works Cited

Schnaiter, Sam, and Ron Tagliapietra. Bible Preservation and the Providence of God. Self published. Xlibris Corp., 2003.

White, James. The King James Only Controversy: Can You Trust the Modern Translations? Minneapolis. Bethany House Publishers, 1995.

Notes

1 I regret that I can no longer identify the source of this quotation. Either I am misremembering the college that posted the statement or they have since replaced it with something more conciliatory. In any case, the view they described is not unique to them.

2 Examples include “The Modern Texts and Versions Have Produced the Fruit of Theological Liberalism,” “Reasoned Preservation of Scripture, “A Sniff Test for the History of Preservation of Scripture,” “Biblical Preservation: B. B. Warfield and the Reformation Doctrine of the Providential Preservation of the Biblical Text,” and many, many more.

3 In the book, the emphasis in this paragraph is in all caps rather than italics, probably because the section is a response to correspondence in which all caps occur frequently in reference to Schnaiter’s views.


Aaron Blumer, SI’s site publisher, is a native of lower Michigan and a graduate of Bob Jones University (Greenville, SC) and Central Baptist Theological Seminary (Plymouth, MN). He, his wife, and their two children live in a small town in western Wisconsin, where he has pastored Grace Baptist Church (Boyceville, WI) since 2000. Prior to serving as a pastor, Aaron taught school in Stone Mountain, Georgia, and served in customer service and technical support for Unisys Corporation (Eagan, MN). He enjoys science fiction, music, and dabbling in software development.

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Aaron Blumer's picture

Because the preservation question is intertwined with the translations controversy, and discussions on the topic of translations and KJVO have a strong tendency to quickly degenerate into mudslinging, we're going to give this thread "special handling."

  1. Please try to keep discussion connected to the preservation question.
  2. Please avoid broad characterizations of one side or the other of the translation debate. These characterizations aren't helpful, regardless of how true they might be. They do not change anyone's thinking on the subject (It's like politics. Saying "Conservatives are just greedy corporate stooges" or "Liberals are sentimental idiots" never persuaded a single Conservative or Liberal to change his point of view!)
  3. Since we have a forum for [URL=http://sharperiron.org/sharperiron-forums/english-bible-text-debate ]English translation debate[/URL ], we'll be quicker on the "comments closed" button for this thread than we would be for most. We're looking for that rarest of all birds: a calm, irenic, issues-focused (rather than people-focused), conversation about Bible preservation and things related.
  4. OK... after all that, please don't be scared to post! Wink
schaitel's picture

I have been processing this issue in my mind for a while now, and have not come to any firm conclusions. Both sides make good points.

One thing I have observed though is that the "debate" is not in the spirit of "come on guys, this is a very important topic with huge implications, lets sit down and try to resolve it. Here's what I believe, what do think?" I have a hard time clearing away the nastiness and partisanship to find the truth. One side tends to be shrill and the other side doesn't seem to take some of the other side's valid concerns seriously.

Well, I take that back, there are more than two sides in this debate, which is perhaps why it is so complicated.

Thanks for the article Aaron, and the tone in which it was presented.

Jason E. Schaitel MCP

co-founder FrancisSchaefferStudies.org

student at Veritas School of Theology

Jay's picture

I also appreciate the stab that Aaron is taking to discuss (amiably) this topic. I contacted him to get some information on the first footnote, and apparently although he has the original documentation with the quote, the particular school that he's referring to has since either modified that statement or has changed their position, so he's not sure about which school it is, and the paper that had the quote was separated from the school's name. Since that's the case, I agree with him that it would not be fair to put the name of the school (if he is indeed remembering the school correctly) out in public.

I think, Schaitel, that a lot of this debate got off on the wrong foot because it was a knee jerk reaction to the flood of new translations coming on the market in the '60s-'70s [although the roots for it began in perhaps the late '40s or early '50s, according to a doctoral thesis I read on it in Grad School ]. Rather than discussing "How has God preserved His Word?", the reply was a "The King James is God's Word and all the rest are bad copies" (or something like it) without an serious evaluation as to where the eventual consequences of where that position would lead the holders; perhaps it was just a "Hey, I've grown up on the KJV, love it, use it, and don't see any need to replace it" mentality either. I don't know.

I'm looking forward to the day where the issue is dead and has a silver stake in its' heart, so we don't need to discuss the KJV aspect of it anymore. I fear, though, that maybe that's a day that only my great great great great great grandkids will see. Preservation, of course, is a CRITICAL doctrine, and we all have to work through that at some point.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Bob Hayton's picture

I think this is a great summary of the issue, Aaron. Thanks for posting this. The discrete view (I had to look up that term, btw), would argue (obviously) that there is more from the Bible to consider. They'd point out Is. 59:21, which intimates the word will be in the mouth of God's people. They would also reason from passages like Matt. 4:4 that Christians have to have the entire Word (each and every word) available and accessible, else we can't possibly live the Christian life we need to. If we can only live by God's Word, God is obligated to provide that Word, the reasoning would go.

Ultimately I think we end up reading our view into Scripture, to some degree, on either side of this issue. It's important to stop and hear what Scripture itself says, and your post is great at helping us do that. In addition, I'd say the idea of "word" being an audible word from God, His message or plans is also important. In our age of printed Bibles on every shelf and in every store, we think of "word" as "book" or "Bible". But often in Scripture that is not what is meant by the term. If you look in Acts the term often refers to the message of the Gospel. The "Word" spreads, grows and accomplishes things. Of course the Bible is living, but it is the message of the Gospel itself that actually accomplishes this. 1 Pet. 1 even defines "word" there as "the gospel preached to you". William Combs makes this point in his excellent article on preservation (available online [URL=http://www.dbts.edu/journals/2000/combs.pdf ]here[/URL ]).

I think it is really helpful to see how Scripture itself handles the matter of textual variations and quotations. Scripture often gives parallel accounts that are direct quotations that are different in exact word order and other particulars. Moses recounts the history of Israel in Deuteronomy, and he quotes what he said at various times in the history. If you compare what Exodus has for Moses' statement, it often does not match up with Deuteronomy's account. The synoptic Gospels and other sections of the New Testament also provide examples of one account given to us in more than one form. Then later passages in the Bible quote earlier ones. The prophets quote from the Pentateuch, and the NT epistles and Gospels quote from the OT. These quotes reveal that often loose quotations are considered equivalent and as authoritative as the exact word-by-word original Scripture. This is really important, because this quality of the Bible must be allowed to influence how we think about differences among manuscripts and between various Bible versions. Are word differences a really big deal? Well, how does the Bible exemplify what we should think about word differences? Is authority tied to a specific exact quotation or rendering of the Word, or is it tied to the nature of the quotation (quoting from God's word)? -- These kinds of observations and questions are important for those who would consider Scripture's witness in relation to the Bible controversies of today.

Thanks again for the post. I'll be linking to it from our group [URL=http://kjvodebate.wordpress.com/ KJV Only Debate blog[/URL ].

Striving for the unity of the faith, for the glory of God ~ Eph. 4:3, 13; Rom. 15:5-7 I blog at Fundamentally Reformed. Follow me on Twitter.

Charlie's picture

One exegetical detail that sometimes gets lost in these debates is the meaning of God's "word." Due to our contemporary (and correct) habit of referring to the Bible as "God's Word," the tendency is to assume that whenever we see a reference to "the word of God" or "your word," it is a reference to the Bible, or the portion of Scripture complete at this time. I'll have to run through some resources for confirmation, but I'm pretty sure that especially in the OT, the use is many times rather referring to specific statements and promises of God.

An example of this evangelical tendency is Isaiah 55:11. Young's commentary, for example, spends that portion almost exclusively in discussing the divine power of the Bible, abstracted from the immediate context. Steveson has a footnote explaining how this passage is still true even when Christians don't always see "fruit" from their evangelistic labors. Now, I'm all for healthy sytematic theology, but I think the NET Bible got this right:

Quote:
"In the same way, the promise that I make does not return to me, having accomplished nothing. No, it is realized as I desire and is fulfilled as I intend."

32 )tn Heb "so is the word which goes out from my mouth, it does not return to empty." "Word" refers here to divine promises, like the ones made just prior to and after this (see vv. Isa 55:12-13).

33 )sn Verses 8–11 focus on the reliability of the divine word and support the promises before (vv. 3–5) and after (vv. 12–13) this. Israel can be certain that repentance will bring forgiveness and a new covenantal relationship because God's promises are reliable. In contrast to human plans (or "thoughts"), which are destined to fail (Ps 94:11) apart from divine approval (Prov 19:21), and human deeds (or "ways"), which are evil and lead to destruction (Prov 1:15–19; 3:31–33; 4:19), God's plans are realized and his deeds accomplish something positive.

Errors similar to this one perennially dog discussions of preservation.

My Blog: http://dearreaderblog.com

Cor meum tibi offero Domine prompte et sincere. ~ John Calvin

Jay's picture

Bob Hayton wrote:
I think it is really helpful to see how Scripture itself handles the matter of textual variations and quotations. Scripture often gives parallel accounts that are direct quotations that are different in exact word order and other particulars. Moses recounts the history of Israel in Deuteronomy, and he quotes what he said at various times in the history. If you compare what Exodus has for Moses' statement, it often does not match up with Deuteronomy's account. The synoptic Gospels and other sections of the New Testament also provide examples of one account given to us in more than one form. Then later passages in the Bible quote earlier ones. The prophets quote from the Pentateuch, and the NT epistles and Gospels quote from the OT. These quotes reveal that often loose quotations are considered equivalent and as authoritative as the exact word-by-word original Scripture.

Bob, I am SO glad you brought that up. One of the reasons why I wound up where I did on the topic of preservation is that I noticed this as well. When Jesus got up and quoted the Isaiah passage in the synagogue, He used the scroll that they had and didn't correct it or argue over it's veracity. He took the scroll that they had, used it as the basis for His sermon, and sat down. Here's the passage that I'm referring to:
Luke 4:16-28 wrote:
16 And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. 17 And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.”

20 And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” 22 And all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth. And they said, “Is not this Joseph's son?” 23 And he said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Physician, heal yourself.’ What we have heard you did at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well.” 24 And he said, “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown.

That, combined with the fact that Paul gives instruction for his epistles to be read in all the churches, makes me believe that the power of the Word isn't necessarily in each individual printed copy - but in the power of the Holy Spirit to use it for correction, reproof, and correction as we study, memorize, and cherish it. That doesn't mean we can all use whatever we want, but that it is important not to get tied up in whether or not the ___________ text type is best; after all, there weren't different text types in Paul's day...just various copies, made as means were made available, and whatever was memorized. And not all of those sayings and re-copies would be identical - yet that was not a problem for the church. What is the more needful thing is to communicate the Truth in God's Word to all people - saved and nonsaved.

I would rather have the people in my church reading 5 different Bible Translations for their Bible Study and each getting something from it than have everyone studying from the NKJV [for example ] and struggling to make sense of it.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Aaron Blumer's picture

Bob,
I appreciate the additional passages you mentioned. It's probably evident that the article is a revisit to a topic I dug into quite a while ago... and I'm not completely caught up with what's been going on since then. The sources I was looking at the time were very difficult to extract key texts from because there was a great deal of other kinds of argumentation going on all around and the Scripture was sort of random in with the rest.
I'm sure if I had a copy of K. Brandenburg's book on the subject, I'd have another bunch of passages to look closely at.
But so far, what I've seen tends to be more of the same kind of data just multiplied... and 500 verses that do not promise a written certainly-identifiable form say no more than 5 verses that do not promise it.

As for the two you mentioned, I'll plan to take a closer look. Off hand they appear to be more about what we are obligated to do with what we have rather than details about what we will have and we'll get it.

Appreciate the observations about "word" also. We do forget that until the movable type printing press, few believers had their own Bibles. And even after that entire Bibles were pretty expensive until the steam powered press. So, in the 16th century nobody was really asking "Can I call what I have in my hand the perfectly preserved word of God?... as opposed to this other version over there?" Almost nobody. They didn't have anything in their hand!

And at the time of Erasmus, manuscripts were scattered, hard to obtain and few were complete.
Just a bit of perspective. The debate we have today would just not make sense during the Reformation or before.

Got to rambling there... Charlie: appreciate your point about word as something spoken. Further back we go, the more "word" was repeated by mouth precisely because of the lack of availability of written forms (that and--far back enough--the canon not being completed)

Aaron Blumer's picture

What if some archaeologist digging around in Turkey or Rome or Jerusalem finds a well preserved manuscript dating solidly to, say, 2nd century, that matches TR perfectly? Of course, you'd have to say "Which TR?" but let's suppose it perfectly matches what Erasmus settled on, even with the portions reverse engineered from the Vulgate. What does it do to the debate?

Personally, I think I'd still say "We don't have a promise of a discrete word perfect text or translation we can certainly identify" but I'd very inclined to say "Based on external evidence, I think we have a word perfect preserved text." I'd still have to say "I think," because what if they find an older one two weeks later that is more along the lines of Sinaiticus or Vaticanus? External evidence is like that. Never know what might turn up.

Bob Hayton's picture

Jay,

It's funny you bring up Luke 4. That was the main passage on my mind. Here is a simple chart comparing the OT, LXX and NT at that passage:
[img ]http://fundyreformed.files.wordpress.com/2009/03/lxx2.jpg[/img ]
Here are a few conclusions of observing that Jesus read out of a scroll. Luke gives us what was in the scroll, not the words of Jesus at this point. He says Jesus read where it was written.....

Quote:
1) a synagogue Jesus attended did not have a proper KJV Only approved Bible.

2) Jesus felt it was fine to use such a Bible.

3) God inspired Luke to quote from said Bible, with no implications in Luke’s gospel indicating that there was anything wrong with such a Bible.

4a) Concluding from this, we could say a translation that poorly captures the sense of the original text, is still a Bible worthy of use.

4b) And another conclusion could be that obeying the message of Scripture is more important than stressing over its exact wording.

4c) A third potential conclusion would be that the Masoretic text only approximates the Hebrew original, and the LXX and other translations help us get closer to the readings that were in use and used by Jesus and his Apostles in NT times.


(see further discussion on Luke 4 in a blog debate starting [URL=http://kjvodebate.wordpress.com/2009/08/02/king-james-only-believers-and... ]here[/URL ], if you are interested for more. I don't want to bog down the discussion of Aaron's article here)

Striving for the unity of the faith, for the glory of God ~ Eph. 4:3, 13; Rom. 15:5-7 I blog at Fundamentally Reformed. Follow me on Twitter.

Bob T.'s picture

Two must reads for some comprehension of this subject are: 1. "King James Onlyism, A New sect," James D. Price; 2. "In The Beginning, The Story of the King James Bible and How It Changed a Nation, a Language, and a Culture," Alister McGrath.

James Price was Executive Editor and Chairman of the Executive Review Committee of the New King James Version. He has a PHD from Dropsie College for Hebrew and Cognate Languages. He has taught for over 25 years.

Alister McGrath is Principle of Wycliffe Hall, Oxford, and Professor of Historical Theology. A world renown historian.

It would be difficult to maintain the KJVO or KJVP position after digesting the information provided in these two excellently researched books.

The heart of this issue is the subject of preservation as Aaron has pointed out. The problem is the process of historiography. How do we know history and what are the facts of history?

The problem is that beginning with David Otis Fuller in the 1970s, there have been differences in the facts presented regarding preservation history involving textual criticism. We who are not textual critic scholars often fail to grasp our lack of knowledge and our need to be able to recognize scholars who have spent their lives on the subject and the research methodology. We must accept the facts of others who have done the first hand research. Some Pastors have attempted to become textual and translation experts overnight and write a book on the subject. This has contributed to the rise and perpetuation of unsupported historical facts and concepts.

God has evidently allowed the preservation evidence to be part of the normal process of history and historiography. Perhaps this is so because it keeps the historical facts of the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Christ as that which stands at the forefront of factual and provable human history. The original historical documents are verifiable based on the massive historical data from manuscripts, versions, and writings of early fathers. This places Christianity within the arena of the normal process of human history and historical research.. It can be asserted that the evidence of the historical facts of the NT stands within the normal common law legal rules of evidence in which multiple duplicated documents, of various sources, may be presented to prove the content and facts of a prior document not now available due it being destroyed. Such evidence is allowed especially when the original documents were destroyed through no fault of those seeking to rely on such evidence. Copies may be presented. If handwritten, multiple copies may be compared.
However, if one were to claim that documents can be relied upon to be conveying accurate history because the documents are the subject of a special divine intervention that has preserved every word, then logically the person or force behind that special intervention act would need to testify as to its occurrence, His ability to do such a thing, and which exact document or documents have been so preserved to exactly represent the destroyed original. Absent the personal testimony of the divine preserver, those seeking the truth of the original document need to then go back and resort to using all the documentary evidence available. They then need to evaluate, prioritize, and collate the evidence within the realm of the human historiography process. I find no statement from the divine preserver pointing to any set of documents, or translated version, as that which has His special intervening divine preservation. Absent that, it all becomes human evaluation, but evaluation that becomes convincing based on the massive weight of historical evidence.

Christianity is Christ. The coming, teaching, death, burial, and resurrection of Christ are purported to have occurred in real human history with meaning for all human existence and history. Christianity must therefore stand within the reality of human life and history. The true God has promised to preserve His word. However, the promises of preservation, that are themselves seen in alleged preserved documents, give promise of substance being preserved without specificity as to exact sources to look to find that preservation. This puts preservation outside of the voice and revelation of God as we seek that preserved word. Fortunately the documentary evidence, and verifiable human textual process, leaves us with a massive amount of historical evidence. At the end of the process we can say that the substance of God's words to men has been preserved. No doctrine is in doubt due to the lack of the preservation of the substance. God has kept His promises.

The implications of an alternative method, which seeks to confirm preservation apart from a historical evidential stream, is that God has intervened in history and enlightened us to certain sources, or a translation, that have his supernatural care apart from others like sources and translations .However we cannot look within the revelation of scripture for that which points with specificity to such sources, so we look to outside scriptural evidence and seek to put together such a truth. In so doing some claim to arrive at a doctrine from God concerning His word without a word from God to support that doctrine. The doctrine is derived from our human reasoning concerning facts which are known only by historical human analysis. So we have a plethora of arguments about the character and belief of some textual critics, and the different facts that may have been involved in textual history and the making of modern translations. All this to prove an alleged divine doctrine without one divine word on the subject. Many Bible colleges and churches have a doctrinal statement that includes the assertion of the KJV being the preserved word or God for the English language or other words to that effect. Many of these list various scriptures after each article of their statement giving scriptural evidence for their belief. However, no one lists a scripture that specifies a textual type, certain manuscripts, or a translation. They assert a doctrine, stand behind it as from God, but never cite a word from God supporting their choice of textual history or translation.

Aaron has rightly pointed out the heart of the KJVO debate. It is preservation. They acknowledge this. It is a preservation view asserted as a divine "doctrine" of preservation. These recent KJVO doctrinal assertions regarding preservation are new. By their own admission, this is a new doctrine that arose in the 1970s. For certain reasons I will not go into possible reasons it has spread, mostly among Independent Fundamental Baptists of a certain type. This is a doctrinal assertion. It is a doctrinal assertion that allows for divine superintendence of human processes to the same degree as original inspiration. It is an effort to have divine infallibility moved past the Apostolic approval and inscripturation to other men of much later history. Such a doctrine becomes similar to a doctrine of later divine intervention with additional revelation.

A new book on this subject asserts the KJVO position but calls for a more civil tone among those who differ. The book is "A More Sure Word, Which Bible can you trust," by R.B. Oullette, a Michigan Pastor. It has a forward by Paul Chappell of Lancaster Baptist Church and President of West Coast Baptist College. It is certainly good to see them desiring a less caustic atmosphere in the discussion. The book acknowledges that this issue is recent and arose in the 1970s. However, it is disheartening to see the same method of argumentation and attacks that are the same in obvious factual errors. The book indicates a lack of awareness of well established facts of textual history. It does not even understand what the so called "Textus Receptus is or its sources. This appears to be typical of our problems with regard to presented historical facts on this subject. The author then elevates his historical conclusion to the level of a divine doctrine. This is what makes the issue involve often passionate argument, and rightly so! The Doctrine of truth in God's word is important.

Bob Hayton's picture

Great thoughts on this. I appreciated how Kevin Bauder made a similar conclusion in the book he co-edited on the topic (One Bible Only? Examining the Exclusive Claims for the King James Bible [Kregel ]). It really is a big deal to create a doctrine without a Scriptural warrant.

As to Chappell's endorsement of Oullette's irenic book, I find that somewhat ironic. Chappell's college requires its graduates to sign a pledge that if they ever change their beliefs in the KJB, that they mail their diploma back to the school. I'm not sure how that isn't quite caustic!

Striving for the unity of the faith, for the glory of God ~ Eph. 4:3, 13; Rom. 15:5-7 I blog at Fundamentally Reformed. Follow me on Twitter.

Bob Hayton's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:
What if some archaeologist digging around in Turkey or Rome or Jerusalem finds a well preserved manuscript dating solidly to, say, 2nd century, that matches TR perfectly? Of course, you'd have to say "Which TR?" but let's suppose it perfectly matches what Erasmus settled on, even with the portions reverse engineered from the Vulgate. What does it do to the debate?

Personally, I think I'd still say "We don't have a promise of a discrete word perfect text or translation we can certainly identify" but I'd very inclined to say "Based on external evidence, I think we have a word perfect preserved text." I'd still have to say "I think," because what if they find an older one two weeks later that is more along the lines of Sinaiticus or Vaticanus? External evidence is like that. Never know what might turn up.


I would agree, Aaron. We are bound to be honest in dealing with the evidence. In God's providence we have a lot of evidence and new finds largely strengthen the overall conclusions. For instance, Tregelles, the conservative Bible believing textual critic (some will say that's an oxymoron, I know...), came to a similar conclusion on passages like 1 Tim. 3:16, 1 John 5:7 and others before the printing of Vaticanus and the discovery of Sinaiticus (see [URL=http://www.bible-researcher.com/dogma.html this article[/URL ]). The conclusions of Westcott and Hort have been reinforced by the new papyrii that have been unearthed (like P66 and P75).

I say this and then note somewhat humorously that the NKJV is the default translation of Sharper Iron. So 1 John 5:7 looks different there than in my ESV Smile Fundamentalists sometimes don't like to ruffle feathers much....

Striving for the unity of the faith, for the glory of God ~ Eph. 4:3, 13; Rom. 15:5-7 I blog at Fundamentally Reformed. Follow me on Twitter.

Bob Hayton's picture

Bob Hayton wrote:
As to Chappell's endorsement of Oullette's irenic book, I find that somewhat ironic. Chappell's college requires its graduates to sign a pledge that if they ever change their beliefs in the KJB, that they mail their diploma back to the school. I'm not sure how that isn't quite caustic!

Clarification was provided to me on this. The official statement that must be upheld by graduates is:
Quote:
That the Bible is the fully verbally inspired Word of God, and that God has preserved His Word in the King James Version for the English speaking people.

There is some room in that statement for variations from their official view. It still does go out of its way to uphold the KJV, but I wanted to add this clarification.

Thanks,

Bob

Striving for the unity of the faith, for the glory of God ~ Eph. 4:3, 13; Rom. 15:5-7 I blog at Fundamentally Reformed. Follow me on Twitter.

Steve Newman's picture

It seems to me like we end up going over and over the same territory, to some degree.
I want to propose a different way of looking at the question.
When various councils got together to decide which books would be in the canon, they did not invite the "textual scholars" or seek for the most ancient texts. Not to say that those things are wrong, but maybe we need to look for different criteria to decide this question. Maybe usage, preponderance of texts, etc. are of more value than previously considered. I am not saying all this because I have a particularly strong point of view on the question, but I just don't know if we are going about all this the right way.

Bob Hayton's picture

Steve,

Good point. Usage of God's people is an important point. I know some who make a case from the Bible that God's people accept God's word, and they would reject spurious text forms as assuredly as they would reject spurious books. I can agree with that in principle, but when you apply it to the text debate it becomes more difficult. Printing first came into prominence at the time the TR was released in a hasty manner. Available manuscripts were used, and from this the first available vulgar translations (translations into the common tongue) were made. German, French, English Bibles and more came on the scene.

But if we go back further than this time frame, we are back into history and textual history at that. What did God's people use in Egypt, Spain, Rome or Antioch at the times from A.D. 100 to 1400? That matter is up for debate and textual scholars and manuscripts have a big role in answering that question. Prior to the Reformation, in the West the Vulgate was accepted by almost all (John Wycliffe translated his English Bible from this) as the authoritative text. Prior to that was the Old Latin and what we now know as the Western Text. In the East and North Africa this is a different story. The evidence was destroyed en masse by the invading Islamic armies.

Going back to the Reformation, they realized the Greek was better than the Latin. But they didn't have many available Greek manuscripts at the time. Did the people of God use the best available texts at their disposal, or did they purposely reject other manuscripts by using the current text of the day? Scholars at that time already began the process of comparing manuscripts, and leading church leaders did not accept the TR in its entirety as perfect. Luther rejected 1 Jn. 5:7 which Erasmus added in a later version of his text although he clearly said in his notes he doubted its genuineness. Calvin and Turretin also discussed the textual merits of various texts, as did later exegetes.

So yes, church history does weigh heavily in this debate. But it is not an easy matter to find and apply the judgment of history.

Striving for the unity of the faith, for the glory of God ~ Eph. 4:3, 13; Rom. 15:5-7 I blog at Fundamentally Reformed. Follow me on Twitter.

Aaron Blumer's picture

Quote:
I say this and then note somewhat humorously that the NKJV is the default translation of Sharper Iron. So...

Bob, I'm NKJVO so don't knock my translation. Wink

Actually, NKJV is the default for the Reftagger options, but the original default was NIV and I couldn't have that! But you can set your personal pref. in your profile if you want something else... I think you know that but figured I'd post for the benefit of any who haven't discovered that.
(But I guess non-members are stuck w/NKJV... might want to rethink that)

Also @Bob: when are you going publish your book on the subject? Sounds like you must have a terabyte of stuff on it.

Steve, I'm interested in your idea... can you elaborate more on what this might look like in our own day?

Bob Hayton's picture

There are so many other good books on the topic. I do want to write more on it some day. But for now I'm a busy father of four girls ages 6 and under....

I think the NKJV is a fine translation, and appropriate given the audience of Sharper Iron too. I was just taking a stab at some humor....

Striving for the unity of the faith, for the glory of God ~ Eph. 4:3, 13; Rom. 15:5-7 I blog at Fundamentally Reformed. Follow me on Twitter.

Steve Newman's picture

The trouble is that today getting people to standardize would be super-complicated in some ways due to all the fragmentation of today's audiences. What was different in earlier times was the ability to have a catholic (with a small "c") group that could meet and speak with some credibility and the followers in general would get behind it. I suppose smaller groups or fellowships do this that are KJVO, for example.
Could a fellowship and/or denomination choose a preferred version at least? Or would we cause more fragmentation by even bringing it up? I'd just as soon not bring it up in most fellowship or denominational settings because I think (within a narrow range that I'm assuming serious Christians would think credible) English Bible versions or even preferred Greek texts are generally unworthy of splitting over. It seems to me that in earlier days church was able to reach consensus based on what was right or best or had the "ring of truth". Do today's believers have the nobility to get beyond their parochial interests to do what is best? Does it cost more than it is worth for us?
In fact, there is a sense in which it is not in many people's best interests to do so. If we standardized, what would be the value of so many trying to churn out more and more translations.

Steve Newman's picture

As I think more about it, maybe there are some criteria we could apply to translation and translations that would give them some sort of standardized stamp of credibility at least. What makes a translation credible? We ought to be able to grade translations on their "literalness" or to what degree they are "sense translations" or have been paraphrased with specific examples. There are certainly examples in many translations also of theological bias (for instance, the decision to transliterate "baptize" than to translate "immerse", in many versions, even in the KJV).
In terms of texts, I think the manner in which texts have been classified are not clear for many and there is a need to step back from some of the dogmatism on all sides of the textual arguments. I don't want to go beyond my very limited understanding (I'm also raising a family and working a job and I'm 15+ years out of school). To me, anyone who says they know which text is the preserved text is overconfident. But I don't necessarily trust the work of the textual critic either.

Jay's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:
What if some archaeologist digging around in Turkey or Rome or Jerusalem finds a well preserved manuscript dating solidly to, say, 2nd century, that matches TR perfectly? Of course, you'd have to say "Which TR?" but let's suppose it perfectly matches what Erasmus settled on, even with the portions reverse engineered from the Vulgate. What does it do to the debate?

Let's stand that on it's head - what if we tomorrow, for example, found out that all the TR manuscripts were absolutely totally corrupted and worthless? How would that affect our Bibles and our view of preservation?

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Bob Hayton's picture

Aaron,

You had to know this was coming:

Quote:
Over at SharperIron, perhaps the most well-known fundamentalist blog and forum on the internet, the owner/editor, Aaron Blumer, a very decent Christian man, has written an article on preservation. He separates positions on preservation to two, and one of them, what he calls the discrete position, is the one we take. I wouldn't call it the discrete view, nor do I think it should be called that, but it is what Aaron thinks of it. I believe he is being far, far more fair than most on this issue. However, he does not represent our position fully and therefore not accurately either. He references our book, but what he writes doesn't seem to have interacted with it much (in the comment section, you will see that Aaron hasn't looked at our book---ooops!). I will be answering his post here at my blog.... ([URL=http://kentbrandenburg.blogspot.com/2010/01/heads-up-on-preservation-art... Kent Brandenburg[/URL ])

It will be interesting to see his response.

Striving for the unity of the faith, for the glory of God ~ Eph. 4:3, 13; Rom. 15:5-7 I blog at Fundamentally Reformed. Follow me on Twitter.

Aaron Blumer's picture

I actually would like to have a good look at Kent's book. I actually didn't even know it existed until just before the article was scheduled to post, but I knew what Kent's views were, so thought it would be good to include a reference to it so folks could take a look if they want to get details on that view.

It does seem that "discrete" is overly obscure word. Didn't realize that. FWIW...

Merriam Webster wrote:
Main Entry: dis·crete
Pronunciation: \dis-ˈkrēt, ˈdis-ˌ\
Function: adjective
Etymology: Middle English, from Latin discretus
Date: 14th century

1 : constituting a separate entity : individually distinct
2 a : consisting of distinct or unconnected elements : noncontinuous b : taking on or having a finite or countably infinite number of values
synonyms see distinct

— dis·crete·ly adverb
— dis·crete·ness noun


Not to be confused with "discreet" (which has to do with being cautious and wise... though I did initially have that spelling in there once, it's a different word entirely)
Given definition 2 there, it's not the best word for that reason also.... though def1 fits what I meant quite well.
[br ]
I'd be happy to hear some suggestions for a better word that captures the idea of "in one place, distinct and identifiable."

Bob Hayton's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:

I'd be happy to hear some suggestions for a better word that captures the idea of "in one place, distinct and identifiable."

I don't know if that is the best term to describe this view, however. They view it as something which has always been accessible throughout time, due to God's miraculous preservation. "Discrete" tends to bring up the image of re-inspiration or some second work to get some wholly new thing. Advocates of TR Onlyism, such as the authors of the book Kent edited, don't think it is a new thing. They think in time God brought the right words to get used in the creation of the TR and in the printing of the English Bible and Greek TRs. But that all along the true words were available to God's people in good manuscripts that they had access to (not that there was one clear cut copy with all the words in that one copy). Maybe "complete" preservation would work, to convey preservation of the complete Word of God as being discernible in its entirety. Or their own term "perfect" preservation.

Striving for the unity of the faith, for the glory of God ~ Eph. 4:3, 13; Rom. 15:5-7 I blog at Fundamentally Reformed. Follow me on Twitter.

dcbii's picture

Bob Hayton wrote:
Here's a link where you can buy his book. It tries to make an exegetical case for "perfect preservation". I remain unconvinced but it is one of the best books out there making this case.

[URL=http://kentbrandenburg.blogspot.com/2008/04/you.html http://kentbrandenburg.blogspot.com/2008/04/you.html[/URL ]


My view on this book is similar to Bob's. I got the first edition (I think it was 2003), and since I was trying to understand the direction my then church had taken (becoming strongly KJVO from a position of acceptance of and friendliness to translations like the NASB) over the years prior to when this book was published, I read it twice thoroughly, the second time taking notes. I liked the approach -- taking the argument almost entirely from the scriptures. Since my pastor at that time was one of the contributors to that book, it gave me even more reason to want to read and understand it.

Ultimately, though, it didn't convince me either. For an example of one of what I thought to be weak arguments, in the chapter on Ps. 12:6-7, it presents the view that "words" are referred to by "them" because of a special case of gender disagreement in the Hebrew. Even though there were other examples of gender disagreement pointed out, and compared favorably with this passage, there was no clear evidence presented that such gender disagreement HAD to be in play in these verses, such that "them" could not refer to men. This is just a single example.

Similar to what Aaron presented above, though, with or without Ps. 12:6-7 being on the side of preservation, I still believe in a doctrine of preservation anyway, but not in the sense of perfect preservation in a single manuscript. If you are one of those for whom this topic is either very interesting or something that is currently affecting your church or fellowship with other churches, you should probably read it to fully understand the side of the perfect preservationists. However, in the end, I thought "Thou Shalt Keep Them" still fell short of convincing me that their view is the correct one.

Dave Barnhart

schaitel's picture

Bob I think you bring up a good point. I know Dave Cloud (and I assume Kent B.) would not want to be associated with KJVO, of the Ruckman/Riplinger variety. I actually read a suggestion once of distinguishing them from KJVO (who say the KJV is superior to the Greek and Hebrew) by being called Preservationists.

We have to remember that much of their understanding of the issue is that Satan and is demons are real and that there is and has been throughout history attempts to destroy humanity (in the garden), the nation of Israel, the line of the Messiah, the Messiah himself, the church, and the Word of God. Therefore there is not just an idea of God preserving the Bible so that it exists, but that it exists in a reliable, dependable, uncorrupted fashion. So I believe one of the disconnects between the different sides in the debate are due to fundamentally different worldviews. In what I have read from the perspective of textual critics, they talk alot about text and methodologies but not so much about the spiritual dimension of the whole thing. The question if the Bible and preservation is not simply a historical curiosity, it is not all academic.
I would like to see better distinction between the different factions of what is called KJVO because I believe there are some very reasonable people making reasonable points that should be taken seriously, but they often get lumped in with others that are more extreme.
I have also observed there is a part of the worldview of various KJV Only that see themselves as the pure ones, the holdouts who are the remnant, who are faithful to God while the rest of Christianity apostatizes. The use of other bibles is a litmus test issue for many of whether or not you have drunken the devils kool-aide.

Jason E. Schaitel MCP

co-founder FrancisSchaefferStudies.org

student at Veritas School of Theology

Alex Guggenheim's picture

schaitel,

Assuming we are to factor in the reality of demonic devises (and I have no doubt that at every turn they have sought to dismantle, corrupt and influence in some negative fashion the perpetuity of Scripture) along with the necessary academic or scholarly issues, how would those holding to a form of KJVO you describe as "very reasonable people making reasonable points" respond to the application of this principle when examining the translational shortcomings of the KJV?

Could not those pointing out some of the translational issues say just as well, "Look at the evidence that it is not as trustworthy and demonic forces have obviously introduced some obfuscation and inaccuracies and therefore it certainly cannot be the preserved Word of God"? The problem I see is that regardless of the validity of the spiritual considerations regarding subterfuge by demonic forces, it does not negate the translational issues with the KJV (and if this question is determined to be out of bounds regarding the special rules for discussion then may it be pardoned and moved to its appropriate location with the hope of it still being answered).

Bob Hayton's picture

Schaitel,

You bring up an excellent point yourself, here. As a former KJVO, the loose, flippant treatment of KJV Onlyists coupled with not much effort to distinguish between varying degrees and types of KJV onlyists, put me off. When I read James White's book on the issue in Bible College, the fact that he picked Riplinger and Ruckman as two of his three KJV Only examples really gave me cause to doubt his story. Taking care in distinguishing what the reasoned KJV view actually is, is at least a charitable duty, and at best a tactic which may win some to our side of the debate.

This is not to downplay Alex's valid point that Satanic activity could be posited as behind either side of the Bible debate. But where preservation comes into play here is worth noting. Since God promised to preserve His Word, they argue, why should we expect to find it buried in the sand 1800 years later? Wouldn't we rather expect to see it in the hands of God's people down through the ages? And from a certain vantage point, the TR would have a good claim to being that revered traditionally used text, which would seem to be how we think God would preserve His Word.

Striving for the unity of the faith, for the glory of God ~ Eph. 4:3, 13; Rom. 15:5-7 I blog at Fundamentally Reformed. Follow me on Twitter.

Aaron Blumer's picture

Interesting that someone mentioned Satan's attack on the word of God in the garden. I would agree that the Devil attacked God's word specifically (though it was his way of attacking God Himself and assaulting faith in Him). And we would be foolish to suppose the Devil has gotten out of the word attacking business. But when we look at Satan's attacks on God's word in Scripture, how much of the time was it word in written form he went after? In the garden for example, what he attacked was their memory of what God had spoken... and the meaning of what He had spoken.

Given the rarity of written copies in the hands of God's people over the millennia, I have to think Satan's attacks on the word have more often taken this form, rather than the copying and "transmission" process. (The incident in Jeremiah 36 with the scroll is so memorable because it is so unusual, among other reasons.)

So the "Satan is attacking the word" argument, while true, works for both sides because he is not focused on destroying written word but also more than willing to attack the word unwritten and attack people's understanding and memory of the word. Of course, I'm among those who believe we do not have "unwritten word of God" today, but it is possible to argue that the devil is attacking the word by encouraging folks to use a translation they are more likely to misunderstand (or not read) or by steering them toward a text that seems pure but is not.

I'm not saying exclusive use of KJV is the devil's work to attack the word of God at the level of understanding, but I'm pointing out that this line of argument doesn't work exclusively as a "attacks on the pure text" argument.

About variations of KJVO I'll echo the call for more careful distinctions. It would be a great help for the cause of peaceful coexistence (if not unity) if terms for the various flavors of KJVO could be developed that each group would be willing to own, it could at least make it possible for rhetoric on the topic to be more fair, less sloppy, and ultimately more helpful.
But we still have a fair number of well meaning people using "KJVO" as a term for all the variations and associating them with the most extreme elemements... which just makes alot of people angry where that could have been avoided.

Maybe I'll write a piece on "What kind of KJVO?" and interact w/some folks to try to get some good handles. Though, so far, my handle-making work isn't going super great (as with "discrete preservation")... but at least the view represented hasn't found the term offensive.

RPittman's picture

Quote:
Aaron quoted Dr. Sam Schnaiter and Mr. Ron Tagliapietra:
"What is less clear is how God is preserving the Bible. Though the Bible describes a little of the process of inspiration, it does not describe in detail the process of preservation. Since God also chose in His providence not to preserve the autographs [originals ], it takes more effort to understand the process. (Schnaiter and Tagliapietra, 33)"
Whereas it is true that Scripture does not detail the process of preservation, it is not necessary that we understand it to believe it. We accept it as what E. F. Hills calls "the logic of faith." Few Fundamentalists, regardless of one's stance on the contemporary preservation debate, would contest the present canon (i.e. the 66 books comprising the Bible) as the complete and final canon of Scripture. Yet, the canon has not always been so firm; one only needs to read a little church history. And Scripture does not spell out the process of canonization either.

Let us go a step further and view canonization as part of the overall process of preservation. After all, it is apparent that God had to preserve the larger parts (i.e. the books) in order to preserve the smaller pieces (i.e. words). Thus, if we can have certainty in having all the inspired books culled from among the many spurious epistles, it is perfectly reasonable to posit that we can have certitude as to the words and meaning as well. Now comes the rub. The accepted academic pabulum is that the canon was established by church councils. I would strongly contest this on several grounds that I have neither time nor space to develop here. Suffice it to say that a casual perusal of church history will show that the canon was already pretty well established and accepted within the believing church, not necessarily the established church, by the time of the Council of Hippo (AD 393) and the Council of Carthage (AD 397). My argument is simply that God preserved the canon through the acceptance and use by the believing church, not the determination of some ecclesiastical gathering. God preserves Scripture through His believing church although the precise means are not, and need not be, apparent. It is only necessary that we believe and trust in His preservation. If we must have rationalistic proof (i.e. using the methods of scientific rationalism), then it is not of faith.

Finally, there is the question of the original autographs. This human (rationalistic) theory, without any Scriptural basis for inference, muddies the water considerably. Foremost, it assumes that only the original autographs are inspired. Would not an exact word-for-word, letter-for-letter copy be inspired? After all, what constituted inspiration? The papyrus? The writing from an Apostle's hand (Paul sometimes used an amanuensis)? Furthermore, it is reasonable to assume a few competent copyists made some perfect copies, especially of the shorter epistles. Would not these perfect copies, although perhaps no longer extant, be considered inspired? In such light, the original autograph theory seems a little silly and trite.

Of course, there is the question of meaning. If we had the original autographs today, would they mean the same to modern scholars as to the original recipients who read and spoke Koine Greek? Precise meanings communicated through written English by native speakers today is difficult enough, much less a two thousand year old language. Languages change with time and culture. Can we be sure that scholars have correctly recreated the Koine Greek language? Brother Andrew, the Dutch Bible smuggler, tells how he learned English from his teacher in Holland. As he was leaving for England, his teacher admitted that she had never been to England and had never heard English spoken. All her English was academic. When Brother Andrew arrived in England, he found that he could not understand the language. No scholar that I know has heard or spoken Koine Greek in its cultural context.

In sum, how God preserved is not important but to believe that He did preserve is. There are many things that we don't understand and some we do not need to understand. God has reserved some things unto Himself (Deut. 29:29). We possess what we need to know for "life and godliness (II Peter 1:3)" The problem is that we do not act in accord with what we do know.

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